How A Low-Tech Device Improves Performance and Recovery: Dr Dena Garner

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What if I told you that there was a simple way to improve your muscular endurance, reduce your respiratory rate when running, reduce the production of lactic acid, slash your cortisol build up in half, allowing for faster recovery times after every run? I bet you’d be all over it, right? And then you might be asking, what’s the catch?

My guest today is Dr Dena Garner and she’s spent the last 17 years of her career researching and developing a very simple product that promises to do just that.

Dr Garner is a professor at The Citadel, one of six senior military colleges in the United States. She has degrees in exercise science and muscle physiology as well as a postdoctoral fellowship in neurology.

At The Citadel, her research has concentrated on the effects of a mouthpiece inserted over the lower teeth during exercise. She measures physiological parameters of her subjects while using the mouthpiece, including levels of lactate and cortisol, as well as respiratory rate and has found some pretty incredible results.

Her research has shown that the specific way you place your jaw and tongue, aided by a mouthpiece, results in a physiological change in the airway, which improves performance outcomes. In addition to opening your airway, when you bite or clench down on the mouthpiece during exercise, research cites an increase in cerebral blood flow, which may be the link to the improvements in cortisol and lactate.

Okay, okay, I know what you are thinking. This is pretty weird, right? And I’m not afraid to say that to Dr Garner in our conversation.

But, if you think about it, it could make sense. Think about when you are concentrating hard on something. Many people instinctively clench their teeth or chew on a pencil or their lip or a necklace or bite their nails. Why do we do that? What if it’s not just a habit your mom tries to get you to stop doing? What if it’s a stress-relieving mechanism that’s evolved over time that actually does help us?

I don’t know about all that, but what I do know is that this research is absolutely fascinating to me and potentially could be a gamechanger in performance and recovery. Let’s find out.

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